Poland: propaganda on state broadcasters

For the PiS government, state television and radio are important instruments for pushing through their policies. Defamatory statements are commonplace.

Protests against the judicial reform on 24 July 2017 in Warsaw.
Protests against the judicial reform on 24 July 2017 in Warsaw.
In July 2017, when tens of thousands of people in Poland protested against the government's reform of the judiciary, viewers of the state news channel TVP Info were told that the protesters were "paedophile defenders". And there are countless other examples of manipulation and deeply biased and politically motivated reporting. On Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index, Poland has dropped from 36th in 2015 to 54th place.

Appointing journalists with close party ties to top posts at state broadcasters is a key element of the PiS government’s political agenda. This has had a strongly detrimental effect on the quality of their news programmes.

Furthermore, PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński relies not just on state media, but also on private media to strengthen the party position. In recent years numerous publications have emerged with ties to Kacyzński's PiS, such as the daily Gazeta Polska Codziennie (2011) and the conservative magazine Do Rzeczy (2013). The national-conservative news magazine Sieci, founded in 2012, and the news site wPolityce.pl, which is closely connected to the Sieci editorial team, are also of particular note here. Both are published by the Fratria media group.

For Fratria, the close connection to PiS is above all financially lucrative: since the elec-tion in 2015 the publisher has received hundreds of thousands of złoty, mainly from state government advertisements. Since the government took office the right-wing news site wPolityce.pl has seen visitor numbers soar, making it one of Poland’s most important online media.

But the previous government also supported certain media in the same way. These media have been struggling financially since Kaczyński turned off their money supply after the 2015 elections. The government-critical, liberal Gazeta Wyborcza has been worst hit, especially as its circulation is also sharply in decline. In 2017 it sold a daily average of 111,000 copies - compared to 140,000 in 2016. Yet it remains one of Po-land’s most important media outlets. The only dailies with higher sales in 2017 were the tabloids Fakt (261,000) and Super Express (129,000).

Other media besides Gazeta Wyborcza have declared war on the government, among them the liberal magazines Polityka (97,000) and Newsweek Polska (109,000), which is published by Ringier Axel Springer.

One peculiarity of the Polish media landscape is its extreme polarisation: most media either support the government or are bitter opponents. One exception is the conserva-tive daily Rzeczpospolita, which lies between the extremes (49,000 copies sold daily in 2017). It used to support the PiS, but in recent times has increasingly distanced it-self from the government.

With a daily circulation of 135,000 , Gość Niedzielny, which is sold in the country’s churches and represents the opinion of the Vatican, remains the market leader among the magazines.

Press Freedom Index (Reporters Without Borders):
Rank 58 (2018)

Last updated: May 2018
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